beyond the stoplight

Resources for teachers on the days after the attack on the U.S. Capitol.

GV asked their 3rd grade students, “What questions do you have?” on 1/7/2021

We welcome this guest post from Dr. Alyssa Hadley-Dunn, Associate Professor of Teacher Education at Michigan State University and founder of Teaching on the Days After: Dialogue & Resources for Educating Toward Justice

For educators, I am going to share some resources/ideas for use in your classrooms tomorrow. A reminder about everything that I share here: There is no one easy answer. Not everything works for every student or every teacher or in every classroom. I am not an expert in your classroom or your students (or an expert in anything, actually!). This is not a conversation that needs to or should be relegated to only Social Studies and English Language Arts classrooms.

Please note:

(1) These suggestions are not saying you MUST “teach” about what happened on 1/6/2021 (or any “day after” event or injustice). Days After Pedagogy doesn’t mean turning trauma into a standard or a benchmarked lesson. But if you’re going to TALK about it, do so with intention, care, and an explicit commitment to justice and equity.

(2) Do not do this if you are going to cause more harm or trauma. Do not center images of Black suffering and pain as a way to make this a “teachable” moment. White teachers, this means you/us.

(3) And please, remember that this is not about a one-off lesson. Days After Pedagogy only works if you’ve been teaching for justice on Days Before and Days During.

Note to Black teachers: I hope that you have time and space to care for yourselves, as you support your students. I hope that you have white colleagues who are talking about this, too, so you do not have to be the only one. I hope that you can find co-conspirators in your schools (or here).

Note to White teachers of white students: You HAVE to talk about what is happening. This is on us, every time and all the time. We cannot pretend to be surprised anymore. We have to do what we said we were going to do all summer when we were reading those anti-racist books and completing those anti-racism checklists. Our white students are not ‘too young’ to learn about this.

Note to White teachers of students of color, especially Black students: Please make sure you know what you are doing before you do it. Please make sure you know how to support your Black students and other students of color if you try to have these conversations. Make sure you to do not do more harm by entering into these conversations without careful thought and planning. Ideas/resources/links in comments on Facebook will be updated throughout the evening on our educator’s group: Teaching on Days After: Dialogue & Resources for Educating Toward Justice..

TIPS & Resources

USING ZOOM: Breakout rooms can work to your advantage here. Especially if you are teaching students of color, create multiple breakout rooms for students based on what they want to and feel capable of talking about: (1) For students who do not want to discuss it right now and want to work independently on ‘regular’ class content; (2) For students who want to process with a partner; (3) For students who have many questions and want to process with you.

NAMING THE TRUTH: Think about the language that the media is using, especially when this first started happening. What does this language mean? What does it reveal and what does it obscure? (Hint: Racism.) For example: “protestors” versus “terrorists,” “protest” versus “attack” or “coup.”

ANALYZING IMAGES: There are many images being shared, including some of the Confederate flag in the Capitol building, of someone stealing a Podium, people hanging from the Capitol walls. What do these images tell us? What do they (attempt to) obscure? (Hint: Racism.)

WRITING: If you have students who might better process their thoughts through writing and/or you want to use writing as an intro activity, here are some potential prompts: What do you think happened yesterday? What do you know? What questions do you have? How would you like to process this as a community? If you are doing this virtually, you could have students work in individual or shared Google docs or other apps.

COMPARING A POLICE RESPONSE: There are many Tweets and stories that are being shared that compare images of response to BLM protests and today’s terrorist action. You could use these images to ask students to compare what they think is happening and why it is happening. (Hint: Racism, white supremacy, white rage)

PUSH BACK AGAINST NEUTRALITY: Remember that it will do more harm to teach “both sides.” This is not about both sides. This is about justice. This is a quotation from Tayari Jones that I like to use as a way to think about the “two sides” debate: “The middle is a point equidistant from two poles. That’s it. There is nothing inherently virtuous about being neither here nor there. Buried in this is a false equivalency of ideas, what you might call the “good people on both sides” phenomenon. When we revisit our shameful past, ask yourself, Where was the middle? Rather than chattel slavery, perhaps we could agree on a nice program of indentured servitude? Instead of subjecting Japanese-American citizens to indefinite detention during WWII, what if we had agreed to give them actual sentences and perhaps provided a receipt for them to reclaim their things when they were released? What is halfway between moral and immoral?” –Tayari Jones, from “There’s nothing virtuous about finding common ground”, Time Magazine, 2018

ESTABLISH DIALOGUE NORMS: Check out slides 26-28 in this presentation I do about “teaching on days after.” These are some examples of dialogue norms you could discuss and use with your students.

LEARN AND PRACTICE INTERRUPTOR PHRASES: I don’t actually think the classroom SHOULD be safe for all viewpoints. I am not going to debate another person’s right to exist. I am not going to debate another person’s humanity. These phrases can support strategies for harm reduction even if the absence of a completely “safe” space. Check out slide 31 here for some interruptor phrases to use if you need them: 

ENGAGE IN A PEDAGOGY OF POLITICAL TRAUMA: If you are teaching Black students or other students of color, it will be especially important to find multiple ways to support them in this moment. Check out slides 18-23 in this presentation for descriptions of what teachers have done in moments of political trauma. Some of this was in response to the 2016 election, research done with colleagues Hannah Carson Baggett and Beth Sondel and some is research done for the book that I’m writing right now on all types of days after. 

NOTICE AND WONDER: Two great questions to get students thinking/talking (at any age, any grade level, any content) is to start with: What do you notice? What do you wonder? For example, using two paired texts of photos, one of police on the Capitol steps during the summer’s BLM protests compared to a photo of terrorist in Nancy Pelosi’s office, unguarded… What do you notice about each photo? What do you wonder?

60 SECOND TEXT: For teachers of the youngest learners, this is a great “60 Second Text” from the wonderful Woke Kindergarten.

REMEMBER THIS IS NOT A SURPRISE: White teachers, do not be the teachers/people who are “surprised” by what is happening. Do not let your students be the students/people who are surprised by what is happening. Contextualize this within a historical lens of whiteness, white supremacy, settler colonialism… A great book to think through extended plans for historically and culturally relevant critical teaching is Dr. Gholdy Muhammad’s Cultivating Genius. It is not just for literacy teachers! 

EXPLORE TRUE CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE: Despite what some are saying, what we are seeing at the Capitol is not “civil disobedience.” Here are some lessons from Teaching Tolerance about ACTUAL civil disobedience. 

CONSIDER/SHARE MEDIA FROM OUTSIDE THE U.S.: Think about how other countries’ media are covering these events. Find headlines and translations from major newspapers and consider what it means that the coverage is so different (as it will likely be). 

USE MULTIPLE SOURCES: Remember that the news is emerging. Ask questions to help students process the events, perspectives, and biases. This document allows students to ask and track the questions they have as the news unfolds.

ALLOW FOR A VARIETY OF EXPERIENCES: Sara K. Ahmed from Being the Change uses google slides to invite students to share their news, how it relates to their identity, and what actions they might take.

About the Author

Dr. Alyssa Hadley Dunn’s research centers on urban teacher education and support and the sociocultural and political contexts of urban schools, with a focus on issues of race, justice, and equity. A former high school English teacher, at present, Dr. Dunn is working on a book about how teachers make pedagogical decisions on “days after” major events, tragedies, or instances of injustice. (Check out the related Facebook page for educators here.)

A committed public scholar, Dr. Dunn’s work has been featured on The Huffington Post, CNN, and National Public Radio, as well on education blogs and podcasts. In addition to publishing in journals such as the American Educational Research Journal, Teachers College Record, Journal of Teacher Education, Urban Education, and Teaching and Teacher Education, she is the author of “Teachers Without Borders? The Hidden Consequences of International Teachers in U.S. Schools” (Teachers College Press, 2013) and “Urban Teaching in America: Theory, Research, and Practice in K-12 Schools” (Sage Publishers, 2011). She is also Senior Associate Editor of the journal Multicultural Perspectives.